One of the greatest privileges here at PBP is to work with makers from all corners of the world, and carry the responsibility to tell the rich stories of the people, places, and process behind the products they create. One such maker is Passa Ao Futuro, a Lisbon based not-for-profit association dedicated to preserve, promote and activate a sustainable artisan sector in Portugal, co-founded by Fatima Durkee and Astrid Suzano. PBP collaborated with Fatima on a “Farm to Textile” design residency project to shine a light on the traditional art of wool blanket weaving from the region of Mértola.
The luxury of this experience went far beyond the blankets we created together. We had a front row seat to witness the impact Fatima’s work had on communities - a first hand look at how grace mixed with innovation is the agent for change. We spoke of future collaborations as Fatima travelled with these blankets in tow from Lisbon to Venice, to Palma and back – giving voice to the rich tradition and regenerative future of the region. PBP is saddened to learn of Fatima’s sudden passing, and we are highlighting the story of this collaboration as a tribute to Fatima and to support the continuity of the work of Passa ao Futuro both on the PBP marketplace and through our community of global makers.
"The luxury of this experience went far beyond the blankets we created together. We had a front row seat to witness the impact Fatima’s work had on communities - a first hand look at how grace mixed with innovation is the agent for change."
One of the oldest traditional arts in the region of Mértola is wool blanket weaving. The residency with Passa Ao Futuro and Powered by People brought together two PBP designers Annie Millican and Alison Phillips with weavers Helena Rosa and Fatima Mestre from The Mértola Weaving Workshop Cooperative to create modern designs based on the traditional patterns. The patterns in the blankets pay homage to ancient Berber traditions brought to Portugal with the Moors centuries ago. These patterns create a dialogue with the Mediterranean through ancient cultural passages. These blankets are woven on looms that are over 300 years old.
The process is 100% handmade. The wool is sourced from the local Campaniças sheep that are an integral part of the landscape that is protected from desertification by their presence, this type of sheep needs less water and is acclimated to the hot dry summers. This is a pure example of farm to textile and is part of a regenerative pastures project that is taking place in the area. The blanket’s lifecycle starts with the plants in the pasture: the trifolium, ornithopus and biserrula being most important to keep the sheep content and the wool strong. By keeping the tradition of weaving alive, the sheep are protected and the shepherds and landscape are protected thus making this an art form that is preserving much more than heritage. By purchasing these blankets you are supporting an ecosystem.
Master weaver Helena Rosa at the loom.
Through images of the traditional patterns, local wool colors, details and finishing, Annie and Alison came up with a proposal for several preliminary designs. Those proposals were then redesigned through this exchange, based on the technicalities of these specific looms, and which patterns could be woven together. The Manta de Riscas com Espiga e Fuzis pattern was magnified for the Logwood Manta blankets, the dimensions of the traditional Cobertor were altered for the Cobertor coverlet and the Border coverlet uses the rarest of the local wool colors. Each one speaks to the origins in Mértola and has several modifications that can be made for customization. They are woven to last generations.
Mértola at sunset. Fatima Durkee holding a basket of regenerative blankets made from the wool shorn from local sheep.
Helena Rosa, the master weaver in Mértola, has been dedicated to the art of weaving for 33 years; she has led the The Mértola Weaving Workshop Cooperative for the past 13 years. Passionate about weaving the local traditional patterns that have been passed on from weaver to weaver through the centuries, she safeguards this knowledge and hopes the younger generation will carry on these traditions. Helena is also an advocate for a 100% handmade process. She believes that machines change the feeling of the wool, that there is a sensitivity when the cycle of washing, carding, spinning and weaving is done by hand, which she would like to preserve. Fátima Mestre studied with Helena Rosa and has been weaving for 7 years. Both of her grandmothers spin yarn and her great grandmother was a weaver. She grew up watching the weavers in the village, fascinated as a child. She specializes in the Cobertor weaves, the recycled cotton fabric weaves called Mantas da Retalhos and weaving linen.
The result is a capsule collection of three blankets The Logwood, The Corbertor, and Border, all offer customization. The quality of material and the handweaving on antique looms produce a level of luxury that has all the marking of an heirloom.
“By purchasing these blankets you are supporting an ecosystem.”
We at PBP are grateful for the experience we had working on this project and to celebrate the life, work and legacy of Fatima Durkee. Fatima was proof that one individual can make a significant, positive impact to the world.